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Demons (1971 film)

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Directed byToshio Matsumoto
Written byToshio Matsumoto
StarringKatsuo Nakamura

Yasuko Sanjo Juro Kara

Masao Imafuku
Music byBunichi Nishimatsu
CinematographyTatsuo Suzuki
Edited byToshie Iwasa
Matsumoto Productions Art Theatre Guild
Release date

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Demons (修羅 Shura) is a 1971 Japanese jidaigeki horror film directed by Toshio Matsumoto, based on a 19th century Kabuki play called Kamikakete sango taisetsu. It tells the story of the samurai Gengobe, who seeks revenge after falling prey to the schemes of a geisha and her husband. The film takes place in the Edo period sometime between 1701 and 1703, as its plot connects to the Chusingura story, in which 47 ronin seek vengeance for their master. The Japanese title Shura refers to Asura, warrior demons in Buddhist mythology.


Soemon is a ronin living in poverty under the false identity Gengobe, waiting to raise the funds necessary to rejoin the retainers of Enya and assist in carrying out their vendetta. In the meantime he has been seeing a geisha named Koman.

In a nightmarish vision, Gengobe is chased by spirits into his house, whereupon he discovers several bloodied corpses, including Koman's, as well as his own body hanging by a rope. He then awakens beside Koman.

Gengobe notices the "Godairiki" tattoo on Koman's arm, a pledge of eternal love. She claims it is for Gengobe, and asks him to make her his wife. The two begin to make love but are interrupted by Gengobe's loyal servant Hachiemon. Gengobe asks Koman to leave so he can converse privately with his servant. Hachieman tells Gengobe that supporters from his hometown raised the 100 ryo needed to rejoin Enya's retainers. Koman returns to the house during this conversation, where she sees the 100 ryo before Gengobe quickly puts it away.

An hour later, Sangoro, Koman's "brother" arrives with the message that Koman is to be married off to a samurai named Banemon. Gengobe accompanies Sangoro to their tea house where they spy on Banemon discussing the deal with her Koman and her family. Koman refuses to marry Banemon because she claims to love Gengobe. The others point out Gengobe could never afford to pay off her debt, which comes out to exactly 100 ryo.

Gengobe has a vision wherein he pays off Koman's debts but is confronted by Hachieman about spending the money his allies raised for him. Ultimately, in reality, Gengobe decides to pay off Koman's debt. Banemon and the rest of the party leave. Shortly after, Sangoro tells Gengobe learns that Koman is married, and that he is her husband, not her brother. The two had tricked Gengobe into giving them his 100 ryo, leaving him enraged and humiliated.

Later that night, Sangoro celebrates with his companions, who all laugh at Gengobe's expense. Meanwhile Gengobe re-lives the moment where he learned that Koman is married to another man, and that they had conned him out of the only money he had. He envisions killing the entire group.

Koman and Songoro use the money they stole from Gengobe to get back their baby which they lost because they were disowned. In the middle of the night they take the baby and go to Songoro's father, Tokuemon where they offer the money as a way back into his good graces. It is here that he accepts them. Here we learn that Songoro's father knows of Gengobe because he is also a worrier he explains that Gengobe is really a warrior calles Soemon. Songoro explains all that has happened for them to get there and the father is uneasy because Gengobe has committed murders at Fukagawa . Later, while Koman and Songoro are setting up their new life, Gengobe decided to murder Songoro, and Koman. After a massacre at Fukagawa, Gengobe is informed of where to find Koman and Songoro. He brings a "peace offering" as a sign of forgiveness. Gengobe gives Koman and Songoro Sakethat he poissoned. While Gengobe is talking to Koman and Songoro, trying to get them to drink the poison, the "demons" with the lanterns are in hot persuit for him. In a conversation between an informant and one of the demons, we find out they are actually officers looking for Gengobe. They are there to arrest him because he murdered all those people at Fukgawa. When one of the officers present evidence that it was Gengobe at the scene of the crime, Hachiemon appears takes the blame and is arrested.

Later that evening after Gengobe leaves Songoro and Komans actual brother Yasuke try to drink the sake. Only Yasuke drink it, and while the men are having a fight, he begins to suffer. To put him out of his misery, Songoro kills him. During this, a very distraught Gengobe funs through the woods being haunted by the ghosts of the people he killed including a now dead Hachimon. Awake. By the sight of himself hanging, Gengobe realizes he was dreaming and leave the woods.

After her brothers death Koman goes to the woods to bury him. There she runs into a frantic Gengobe. He chases her until he cuts her with his sowrd. Hse then goes into a room to protect her baby who was left alone crying. Gengobe finds her and forces her to kill the child. After killing her baby, Gengobe kills and beheads Koman. Songoro witnesses this from hiding and then flees for his life. While in hiding Songoro is approached by his father that someone is coming and that he should hide. The person who was coming was Gengobe. He entered a room with Koman's decapitated head and proceeded to have an in depth spiritual conversation about where she is in death while drinking sake. He is interrupted by Tokuemon, here we learn that Songoro's real name is Sentaro. Pokémon presents gengobe with the 100 Ryo that Koman and Songoro stole from him.

In an unexpected turn we realize they are in the same room as Songoro who is still in hiding. Gengobe, defeated and drunk declines the money and tells Tokuemon all that has happened and how he regrets not being able to kill Songoro. The father makes the connection that his son is Songoro known to Gengobe and from hiding Songoro appears. He realizes he knows Gengobe aka Soemon from stories his father has shared, the father begs for his sons life. Only for the son to try and kill himself one he leans of Komans death. And a sign of respect Gengobe ends Songoro's suffering.

After the final scene fades to black, a title card informs us that Soemon was not among the Enya retainers who carried out their vendetta.


  • Yasuko Sanjo as Koman
  • Juro Kara as Sangoro
  • Masao Imafuku as Hachiemon
  • Tamotsu Tamura as Yasuke
  • Hideo Kanze as Takubei


The film was released in Japan in 1971. The following year it was screened for Cannes' Director's Fortnight, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and the Chicago International Film Festival.[1][2] The U.S. version with English subtitles was released in January 1974 by Film Images.[3] In August 2011 the film was screened by the British Film Institute as part of their “Shinjuku Diaries” program.[4]


Filmmaker Noël Burch said Demons was "one of the most important and beautiful films made in Japan since Kurosawa’s prime."[5]


  1. "the first festival 1972". Retrieved October 5, 2021. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  2. "Quinzane 1972". Retrieved October 5, 2021. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  3. Galbraith IV, Stuart (1996). The Japanese Filmography: 1900 through 1994. McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-0032-3. Search this book on
  4. "Shinjuku Diaries: Films from The Art Theatre Guild of Japan At BFI Southbank in August 2011" (PDF). 2011. Retrieved October 5, 2021. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  5. Noël, Burch (1979). To the Distant Observer: Form and Meaning in Japanese Cinema. University of California Press. pp. 356–359. ISBN 0-520-03877-0. Search this book on

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